A New Tabloid On The Horizon: The Business World's New Nigerian National Accord

06 June 2012

By Abdul-Warees Solanke

A new newspaper is coming on board. From its advertorial in the Business World, its name shall be National Accord. A look at its masthead and logo design shows it will be a clone of the defunct National Concord. To make a success of the arriving tabloid, here is wishing its promoters wisdom from God.

The newspaper business is of cause a robust and enchanting one, but it is also challenging and risky, and so requires careful planning, rigorous market research, scientific audience survey, strategic human resource management, aggressive recruitment drive to headhunt the best in the industry and tap unknown potentials waiting to explode with their basket of fresh fruits of thoughts and ideas. It also requires critical engagement with all segments in the market who will dictate its success or failure. To arrive with a bang and deliver with a punch, its proprietors must come with a loaded chest, a hefty purse and an intimidating clout to weather initial teething season and advert drought period. It must come to chart a new course, thread a fresh path, do what those in the market have never done, or outdo what its competitors are best at.

My one decade plus experience at Concord gives me an insight into what a true national newspaper is. I came to Concord in its tenth year anniversary and met on ground the cream of its foundation staff and belong to the second or third generation that thrived for the next ten years until the curtain fell on its stage. As national Concord closed shops in at the turn of the new millennium, it still burnishes in gold, as it promoted concord and harmony in Nigeria. In its two decade of sojourn in Nigeria, and as it bestrode the nation's polity, it presented a fine example of a national newspaper not merely in distribution and reach but also in terms of national ownership. Therefore, in National Concord are some lessons for National Accord and other dailies that will come to flaunt a 'national' credential.

National concord was an enigma. It was not just a newspaper platform. It was an institution that manifested the Nigerian diversity, our national character. Yes, it was established by MKO Abiola, but it was an establishment for all Nigerians, a voice for all Nigerians. Concord was a symbol of our nationhood, our oneness. Yes, MKO established the national Concord, but he left it as a platform for contest and competition in our diverging national interest. Every part of Nigeria had a say, had a representative. In staff recruitment, it was a hall mark of the federal character; in leadership selection and appointment, it was an example of national spread and representation; in management composition, it was merit at its best with consideration for learning and growth; in giving voice to the minorities and the under-represented in our national polity, concord was a case study in accommodation; in advancing the messages of spiritual succour, the concord titles offered the platform for all faiths and denominations.

Its publisher was a Muslim but he gave freedom and protection to adherents of other faiths. Abiola was a Yoruba, an Egba of Gbagura stock, but his core lieutenants came from all axis of Nigeria. The list of its board of directors and senior editors read like a typical Nigerian Federal cabinet; the composition of its middle and lower management resembled the roll call of the Nigerian national assembly. Concord was an army that allowed its foot soldiers to rapidly rise in rank to generals without any previous or primordial relationship with the publisher; an institution that speedily tapped and rewarded talents even from day one on the job without allowing them to grey before they are recognized and positioned. It was an example of innovation and dynamism, investment in new technology and capacity building.

It believed and advanced the pan Nigerian and pan African projects. Its editorial board was not a school of theories or arm chair criticisms; it took its debates beyond the cosy conference room to the public and international arena, not to make money for the publisher but to the cause of Nigerian and African development. Three examples stood out: The editorial board was the engine room of the reparation struggle for Africa and Africans in the Diaspora. Abiola spearheaded the cause though the concord. The Editorial board staged the national Conference on the Stability of the Third Republic. The success of that confab cannot be rivalled by what some national governments and international agencies would put together. Concord did not need co-sponsors or advertisers and state resources to launch these ambitious but patriotic projects on national and global discourses.

As the tide of privatization of public enterprises, was sweeping through the world in the eighties, Abiola bought into the idea of studying how the programme was conceptualized and implemented in all regions of the world. Many senior editors and young but insightful analysts were sponsored on study trips to places as Brazil, Venezuela, the United Kingdom and other countries in Europe, the South America and East Asia. Tunji Bello, Dele Alake and Rose Umoren, Late Chike Akabogu and Nnamdi Obasi were among the lot that did case studies on privatization, serialized in the Concord titles and later published as a book. Their experience could have served as a blueprint in crafting our privatization and commercialization programme.

If Concord had this tradition, then it ought not to die. In truth, Concord is not dead. It only perished in flesh as its spirit resurrected in so many publications now in circulation. The children Concord sired are today fathers, voices and faces of many newspapers on the newsstands. The vacuum its demise created was soon filled by pillars it built in journalism in two decades; the benchmark it set is being elevated by the army who graduated from the concord school and tradition.

Ordinarily therefore, I would have written off the National Accord as having no chance in the market glut of newspapers or coming too late to replace the Concord or make an impact.But experimentation is the true test of validity. Will national Accord share in the glow and glory of the defunct concord? My concern is that so many irokos have taken root and are flourishing on the land fertilized by the remains of national Concord. For a venture as newspaper, it is not a one year experiment. Time is the essence. So only Time will Tell as Now is not The Moment to give a verdict of death to the Accord. The Nation waits how it will Mirror Nigeria. This day, Nigeria looks forward to what Compass the coming national Accord will provide to chart the course of our National Life, whether it will demonstrate Leadership in the newspaper industry as it promises or whether it will not go as the Next victim among publications that blazed forth like a comet, pledging to serve as the pointer, the champion, the defender, the vanguard, the guardian of our national interest but soon slumbered to become ordinary news watchers, observers and spectators at a time journalism practice needed a standard to herald a new age.

For national Accord to etch its name in gold like national Concord, it must hit the newsstand with poise and penetrate the national conscience in the finest tradition of journalism, promote national interest and canvass the new Nigeria of our dream. It must anchor its reportage on everything that sustains the unity and faith, peace and progress of our fatherland. While expecting it to borrow some light from the ray of the Sun provided by the defunct Concord, its success will depend on the culture and tradition it adheres to, the structure it is built on, the future it envisages for Nigeria, the ideals it promotes and the interest it protects. Here is giving the national Accord a loud ovation as it enters the wrestling ring of other barrel chested and beefy national tabloids.

Abdul-Warees is the Head of Training, Voice of Nigeria, Ikoyi, Lagos, (korewarith@yahoo.com korewarith@voiceofnigeria.org  , abdulwarees01@gmail.com ) 08090585723



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